Thursday, March 6, 2014


Breaking News Video:

I saw people at Mass yesterday that I have not seen at Mass before. And there were many, many young people of college age and young professionals. Many Catholics brought their Protestant friends.

Several years ago I had a near disaster in scheduling Masses. I had only one late afternoon/evening Mass and it was at 7 PM. It was like Christmas Eve, people out on the sidewalks. Since then, I added a 5 PM Mass in addition to the 7PM. Both are packed as these were last night. What is it about Ash Wednesday? Why are ashes so important? Why doesn't the Most Holy Eucharist capture the same sentiment in our people?

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad all these people are here especially the young. But speaking of the "cult of the ashes" if you will, read what is going on in many parts of the country in Protestant Churches, usually Protestant Episcopal, and tell me what you think about it and about Ash Wednesday's crowds in general. This article I copy from The Augusta Chronicle:

Augustans observe Ash Wednesday in traditional, nontraditional ways

At noon Wednesday, Christians at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church solemnly lined up in the sanctuary to have ashes placed on their foreheads in the sign of the cross.
Back | Next
The Rev. Kelsey Hutto applies ashes to the forehead of Frederick Van Tassel, 4, as his sister Grace Ann, 5, watches on Broad Street.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
The Rev. Kelsey Hutto applies ashes to the forehead of Frederick Van Tassel, 4, as his sister Grace
Later, on the sidewalks of Broad Street, ministers from local churches prayed with passersby and placed ashes on their foreheads in a similar fashion.
In traditional and nontraditional ways, area Christians observed Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, is a time of spiritual renewal and celebration before the resurrection, said Father Jerry Ragan, of St. Mary’s.  For Amy Rose, a parishioner of St. Mary’s, Lent is a time for her family to focus on growing closer to God.

“To me, Lent is just a time of renewal of my faith, and a time for me to just kind of refocus on Christ and what he did for us, and to be more conscious of my prayer,” she said. Rose and her friend, Becky Wisner, attended the noon Mass, one of four held at the church. Wisner said her daughter attended an earlier Mass with her school and her husband would attend a later Mass after work. “I’ll be cooking dinner while he’s here so we can have dinner when he gets home,” she said.

Despite multiple Masses and services, many people are unable to attend an Ash Wednesday service. That’s where Ashes to Go comes in. Ministers from 10 area churches took Ash Wednes­day observances to people where they were, in at least eight locations, from homeless shelters to Starbucks to Broad Street.

“The idea is to reach people who either can’t make it to their own church’s Ash Wednesday service, or the people who have been away from church and maybe feel an inkling, for whatever reason, to receive ashes,” said the Rev. Kelsey Hutto, the assistant rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the local organizer.

Ashes to Go is part of a larger, national movement designed to move faith practices outside the church walls. Hutto, Roger Gardner of the Bridge Ministry, and the Rev. Jim Shumard of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, Ga., prayed with Kimberly Allen-Geter in front of the Imperial Theatre just before Hutto placed ashes on her forehead. Allen-Geter had just left a job interview and said she would have been attending services at her home church, Victory World Church in Norcross, Ga., on Wednesday if she had not recently moved to Augusta. She currently commutes on weekends to continue attending her church. Jessica Van Tassel saw Ashes to Go on Facebook and took her three children Frederick, 4, Grace Ann, 5, and Hope, 2, to Broad Street in search of the ministers.

Frederick is autistic, which makes sitting through church services without disturbing others difficult. “This is perfect,” she said. “He can just be himself.” Van Tassel said she believes her children need more faith in their lives, but her family doesn’t adhere to one religious tradition and does not maintain a church membership.

She said she is looking for a nondenominational church to attend regularly. Hutto said Ashes to Go is not intended to replace attendance in a regular Ash Wednesday service. “I still believe if you can get to a service, you should go to a service,” she said. “This is meant to reach a need. That need is ‘I can’t make it to the service and I want to do this.’ This need is, ‘I haven’t been to church in a while and this is a step forward.’ Or, ‘I want to change my life around and someone finally asked me about it.’”


Gene said...

"Ashes to Go?" Can worship get any more degraded? And, the Catholic Church continues to flirt with such protestant nonsense...

Rood Screen said...

Since there's no obligation to assist at Mass on Ash Wednesday, I see no problem with a reverent imposition of ashes in a simpler manner, provided it is clearly a liturgical ritual and not a frivolous exercise.

As for those attracted to Ash Wednesday rituals but lacking a spirit of conversion, patience is required. At the same time, we don't want the children of such souls to think that the way their parents practice the Holy Faith is legitimate.

By the way, I offered an Ash Wednesday Imposition of Ashes and Mass according to the E.F., and only one person came. I didn't even have altar servers. So much for that.

Anonymous said...

How long will it be before one of these watered down protestant ecclesiastical communities offers home delivery of an ashes kit. This way no one needs to bother going to church or to find one of these "ashes to go" ministers. Heck, let's take it a step further and do this with communion wafers. These would come in two varieties, consecrated and unconsecrated for those self-designated priests and priestesses who want to do the consecrating themselves. After all, we are all priests, prophets and kings right?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It already has happened! Some tV ministries mail a sinle prepackaged communion wafer with a tiny plastic cup of grape juice for this purpose. I learned this from one of my very old and eccentric shut ins who showed me the stock they had ordered and when they watched EWTN's daily Mass they used the wafer and grape juice at communion time! I was flbergasted but then thought this was a form of a spiritual communion using a sacramental. Odd but true!

Rood Screen said...

Fr. McDonald,

That sounds to me more like simulation of the sacraments than any sort of pious exercise, although I'm sure they didn't intend to do anything wrong. Sacramentals are defined by both canon law and the Catechism as blessings, exorcisms and liturgical objects, so I don't think even good intentions would qualify this as a sacramental. You should have just given him or her a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread! Perhaps a bottle of mead, since this person was eccentric!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Certainly it is a simulation of a sacrament, but certainly not intentional on the part of this eccentric (perhaps with a bit of dementia) elderly shut-in. I don't believe one can make a spiritual communion at a television Mass, especially if the Mass is pre-recoreded as are the afternoon and nightly EWTN Masses.

But there was no point in arguing and at least they were praying along the Mass. That, even if the Mass is pre-recorded, is something and I'm glad our homebound have this televised resource and use it.

On another post a few years ago I showed a picture of this communion package as I asked the shut-in if I could have one. I'll try to search for it on my site and reproduce it.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I found a link for what my homebound eccentric had ordered. Look at the options of how to use this and evidently some protestant churches use it for their communion services and give the congregant the sanitary pre-packed wafer and grape juice.

I'm a germaphobe and the sanitary part of this appeals to me!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe one can make a spiritual communion at a television Mass"

I doubt whether this statement is correct. Not many devotions have a more ancient and venerable tradition--recommended by authorities from St. Thomas Aquinas through Pope John Paul II--than the practice of spiritual communion either entirely outside of Mass (e.g., in a location where Mass is not accessible) or at Mass when one can cannot receive sacramentally.

Specifically, I recall reading an article by a very orthodox priest who stated that the graces thereby received by spiritual communion can equal (or in some cases even exceed) those received from the actual Sacrament by someone who is physically present. (Though, of course, the actual Sacrament itself is inherently greater, our disposition toward the Sacrament can greatly affect the extent to which we actually receive its fruits in our soul.) and a recent news story told of a priest in Mexico (of whose orthodoxy I have no information) recommended spiritual communion while viewing televised Mass, indeed participation (e.g., kneeling at the consecration, etc) as though physically present.

Anonymous said...

By the way, in addition to the graces received from spiritual communion at any time or place--whether or not in connection with televised or actual Mass--the Enchiridion (Handbook of Indulgences) specifies that "an Act of Spiritual Communion, according to any pious formula" [e.g., the well-known one of St. Alphonse Liguori] "is enriched with a partial indulgence."

While I might not generally recommend Wikipedia as an authoritative spiritual source, its concise article on Spiritual Communion seems pretty good: